Tasha Suri’s words are always magic. The books just demand to be read and they enchant you with every page. In Empire of Sand there were true romance goals and legitimate fuel for wedding vows. In Realm of Ash we have a touching story about the ashes of our empire and the sacrifices we make to rule.
The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors’ dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price.
Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she’s pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves.
Together, they’ll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they’ve ever believed…including whether the Empire is worth saving at all.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Realm of Ash is gorgeous. Suri creates an atmospheric world that enfolds you in questions of subjugation, oppression, and the future. Beginning with a character scarred by memories of the lingering traces of grief that leaves your cheeks dry and your throat raw, Arwa’s story is one of recovery, friendship, and freedom. Always being made into a tool for others, Realm of Ash is a story about agency and the choice to act. An unlikely ally with an illegitimate prince will set them both on a path to power, blood, and freedom.
I cannot figure out what to talk about first in Realm of Ash. I read Realm of Ash in two days and I would have read it in one except for sheer exhaustion. It is absolutely captivating. There are memories of the departed in piles of ash, in the realm of those who have left us. Arwa’s journey is one that not only warms your heart, but also feels so utterly relatable to me. As someone who went through life trying to be what people needed, Arwa’s story is a wake up call of sorts.
The Past of the Empire
We thought we knew freedom and chains, but we were wrong. Realm of Ash talks deeply and thoughtfully about the subjugation of people in the name of progress. An empire built on the ruins of live, the backs of sacrifice, and in piles of ash. It’s a common story for this world. When our palaces of gold were built by breaking backs, when our china is stained with blood. No one likes to think that their empire was built on slavery, stolen gold, and tarnished ivory. But that’s what it has taken to build empires, expansive kingdoms, and palaces.
Agency and Arwa
At the same time, Arwa is forced to get in touch with her heritage, a piece of herself she denied and let people diminish. Who will we be when we truly embrace our past? When we have consumed the memories of our ancestors, to hold the painful fragments in our heart, our open bleeding hand. All of that are pieces of her embracing her own agency, her choice to sharpen our edges, to wield our own blades. We have this moment where we become angry at the limits of the world. The windows we believed were bulletproof, but there was never any glass at all. In some ways, we allow ourselves to be caged in bars of our own making because we don’t know a life without these limits. An opportunity to live with open windows and light spilling in.